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Unlocking Opportunity, Hidden in Plain Sight

“I’m passionate about advancing the adoption of digital technologies and excited about the opportunity afforded to me by IAAE”. Mary Bunzel, IAAE’s new Executive Director and industry thought leader, shares her insights about digital automation and the benefits it holds for advancing the manufacturing world.

I tend to read a lot, especially when I travel.  In these interesting times, travel has curtailed, but reading still happens, albeit in between zooms, pets, house, and lots of exciting work!

When I think about innovation, a quote from Peter Thiel, entrepreneur and author of ‘Zero to One’ comes to mind. “Only by believing in and looking for secrets can you see beyond the convention to an opportunity hidden in plain sight”.

I’m passionate about advancing the adoption of digital technologies and excited regarding the opportunity afforded to me by the International Academy of Automation Engineering® (IAAE), to help lead a not-for-profit organization established to further the careers of our members as well as strengthening and growing the talent pool available to both engineering firms and industry clients.

I want to share some insights before expanding on the details.

I received my Masters Degree in Higher Education this last year.  I began my thesis with the hypothesis that if you brought the best of industry together with a nationally recognized research university, the result would be an institution rich with the energy of innovation, founded on a base of knowledge and focused on students. 

As I worked to prove out this hypothesis, my proof statement started to fall apart. 

The nature of public funding and the will to survive, creates an environment where once treasures are donated, they must not be spent.  Instead, the goals are to create large endowments that can provide life-sustaining funding even as government funding fluctuates.  Therefore, staffing and funding for programs must be continually funded from outside grants.  Unlike industry who look at budgets and how to invest for growth, the focus is on how long can we sustain without running out of funding. 

This perspective drives decisions that are counter to continuous innovation and creativity. 

The same stifling blanket of resource constrained curriculum development can result in faculty tasked with developing content and having limited exposure to the real world environment they are teaching.  Additionally, engineering graduates may then lack the domain knowledge needed by their future employers.

It’s not due to lack of interest or effort, simply, the systems public universities live in impose a sort of drawn out, contemplative environment – good for thinking about things, not good when things need to get done.  In the example of curriculum development, the burden of slow moving purchasing and hiring cycles suggests that by the time approvals are issued, the resource or opportunity is gone.  It’s simply not possible for such an environment to keep up with the pace of technological automation or digital advancement happening at the shop floor level for most manufacturing enterprises.

Let’s contrast this with the educational work at the IAAE, which are “hiding in plain sight” and why the organization is critical to future industry success:

  • 11 core courses on Digital Manufacturing Automation
  • 37 total courses supporting Digital Manufacturing
  • 2 certifications for Certified Automation Associate and Specialist
  • Recognized by ISA and Coursera
  • Created by industry for industry

To date, more than 400 students have passed through these courses, many of them continuing with support even today through the digital roundtables.

And that’s why, having tested my first hypothesis to be wrong, I’ll begin again with a new one.  This time, focused on making sure digital automation and the manufacturing world knows about this great resource at the IAAE.  A hypothesis that proves out the theory “it is imperative that we create a workforce who can benefit from the experiences and knowledge of us old Master’s, who can then carry our world forward using advanced digital manufacturing; a mission we can’t fail.”

I’m so excited about the start of my IAAE vocation. Opportunities are boundless, technologies are central, and members will always be core. You are going to hear a lot more from us. This is the commencement of a journey.

I hope you’ll join me.

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